Oct 14

Mets Have Few Spots Without Questions

Let’s assume for a moment the New York Mets’ health questions – outside from Matt Harvey – are answered in the positive heading into spring training. If that’s the case, then let’s look what issues the Mets’ don’t qualify as pressing.

They don’t have a lot.

As I see it, they are only three deep in their rotation with Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler. All have performance questions, but if healthy I’m not overly concerned.

Gee won 12 games last year and 15 should not be out of the question. The same goes for Niese. Who among us doesn’t expect Wheeler to pitch the way Harvey did before he was injured?

Who wouldn’t take that now?

As far as the position players are concerned, the Mets are set in just two spots, and possibly a third. David Wright, of course, and can we please stop trying to replace Daniel Murphy when there are other concerns?

I have no problem with Murphy at second base, and for that matter, I’m also fine with Eric Young in left field, primarily because he surfaced above nine other options to be a productive leadoff hitter. Yes, a high on-base percentage would be good to see, but he made things happen at the top of the order and lead the National League in stolen bases.

And, don’t forget, the Mets only had him for half a season.

The expectations are high for Juan Lagares in center, but he has too many offensive issues. The same goes for Matt den Dekker. Translation: The outfield remains a mess.

There are no answers in the minor leagues and little chips to use to trade. That means they will have to spend, but is there anybody out there that makes you salivate?

I wrote optimistically the other day about the bullpen, but that’s if everything comes together. They appear to have plenty of options to build around, but nothing concrete, especially considering Bobby Parnell’s injury. Should Parnell not come back that’s a source for serious worry.

The back end of the rotation is a concern just as it was last year before Jeremy Hefner and Gee started pitching well. They have options they could bring back and others in the minors, but there’s too much uncertainty.

First base is a black hole and catcher Travis d’Arnaud hasn’t proven he can hit, although the pitchers appear to like him and his defense is promising.

The Mets as we know them today will not be your team come Opening Day. And, that’s a positive.

Oct 13

Rebuilding Mets’ Bullpen Not Monster Task As It Has Been

In each of Sandy Alderson’s previous three winters with the New York Mets, he listed building the bullpen as a priority. It will be the same this winter as well.

Horrendous in the first half of last season, the Mets’ bullpen stabilized into respectability in the second half of the season to finish with a 3.98 ERA.

Unlike previous seasons when Alderson’s bullpen needed a complete overall, the Mets already have several slots filled, but still need to improve their overall depth.

“We need to have more quality arms in the bullpen,’’ Alderson said. “We never had a real strong bottom half of the bullpen. The key will be to have more arms, quality arms out there that we can rely on.’’

Frank Francisco was a bust as the closer, but in his place Bobby Parnell emerged as reliable in that role. However, he lost a considerable amount of weight following surgery to repair a herniated disk. Assuming Parnell returns for the start of the season, the Mets’ pen could also feature LaTroy Hawkins – as a reliable set-up reliever – Vic Black, lefty specialist Scott Rice, long man Carlos Torres, and Gonzalez Germen.

Black was acquired in the deal that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh. He throws in the high 90s and will likely get a chance at the closer role if Parnell isn’t ready.

In previous seasons the Mets had to search for six or seven arms. As of now, they could already have six and are merely looking for depth. Their lack of depth was exposed when after Parnell was injured and Torres was temporarily moved to the rotation.

Rice and Hawkins were two feel-good stories. After spending 14 years in the minor leagues, Rice finally got his chance to play in the major leagues and appeared in 73 games. Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Hawkins still touched the radar gun at 95 mph., and when Parnell was injured, he took over the closer role and saved 13 games with a 2.93 ERA.

Germen emerged as a power arm and Torres was valuable as a combination long-man, spot-starter and situational reliever. Torres’ versatility is something the Mets’ bullpen hadn’t had since Darren Oliver in 2006.

Previously, the Mets would piece together their bullpen, but this time most of their heavy lifting has already been completed. Of course, with Matt Harvey gone for 2014, their pen stands to be taxed.

 

Oct 12

Appreciating Carlos Beltran; Wondering About Return To The Mets

There are a lot of people who tell me if the New York Mets aren’t in the playoffs, and if there’s no arch enemy such as the Yankees to root against, they don’t bother watching the playoffs.

Too bad, because they missed a classic Friday night, and another example of Carlos Beltran’s post-season excellence to marvel over.

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

Beltran will be a free agent this winter, and because the man can still play and one must wonder if the Mets will make a run at him.

You do remember, that rather than pick up his $18.5-million option, the at-the-time rebuilding Mets chose to trade him to the Giants for Zack Wheeler.

I understood what the Mets were doing at the time, but even so I always appreciated Beltran, who is arguably one of the top five position players in franchise history.

I don’t know if Beltran is a Hall of Famer, but he’s a very good regular season player and an off-the-charts October performer.

Beltran drove in all three Cardinals’ runs and threw out a runner at the plate in a scintillating 3-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Add them up now and Beltran is hitting .345 with 16 home runs, 12 doubles and 34 RBI in 40 career postseason games. He also has 42 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. He’s played in October with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals, but has never played in the World Series. He is, however, an eight-tim All-Star.

“It’s just fun to watch him do his thing,’’ Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said last night.

A lot of Mets’ fans don’t want to hear that as they are instead they are caught up on one pitch Beltran took for a called third strike to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Hopefully, Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon was able to convey that to Beltran, along with the organization’s apologies for how his tenure in Flushing ended. You’ll remember, with the competitive part of the 2009 season over, instead of Beltran having knee surgery they opted to bring him back to play in 19 meaningless September games and was eventually shut down.

Then, in the offseason there was a snit between him and the organization – when Omar Minaya was still general manager – over knee surgery and Beltran had it on his own.

Beltran, as the team player he is, had no problem moving to right field for first year manager Terry Collins. Then came the trade for Wheeler and again the remembrances of the called third strike he took from Adam Wainwright.

That was a monster pitch that froze Beltran. It would have frozen Ted Williams. It would have frozen Babe Ruth. It was that good a pitch.

Instead of appreciating what Beltran gave the Mets during his tenure. Instead of acknowledging how he played hurt for the Mets, including with a broken face after his horrific collision with Mike Cameron, a great many Mets’ fans failed to recognize what they had.

Beltran, a free agent this winter, said he’d be open to a return to the Mets. I’d love for him to finish out his career here, where he’d take the pressure off David Wright and would be a tremendous influence to the Mets’ young outfielders in Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Then, when 2015 rolls around with Matt Harvey’s expected return, we might enjoy seeing Beltran in another Mets’ October.

Oct 09

2013 Season Review: Matt Harvey

matt harvey

MATT HARVEY, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

The Mets were patient in bringing up Harvey last year and it paid off. After making a splash with 10 mostly eye opening starts and leaving a strong impression with his poise and command, it was anticipated Harvey would take the next step and become a solid starter in the rotation. Harvey outpitched his experience and numbers with an ability to mix his pitches and throw breaking pitches in fastball counts. Never mind Harvey’s 3-5 record in 2012, but instead look at his 2.73 ERA and 70 to 26 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Harvey had a dominant 10.6 strikeouts per-nine-innings average. Those 70 strikeouts came in 59.1 innings, which screams domination. With Johan Santana out, the Mets hoped Harvey would step into the No. 2 role in the rotation behind Jon Niese. When the season began the Mets did not have an innings limit on Harvey as the Washington Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg. However, that changed as the season progressed, and perhaps it was too late.

CAREER STATS

Screenshot_3

2013 SEASON REVIEW

After winning his first five decisions and seven of eight, Harvey had the world in the palm of his hand. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, showcased on the late-night talk shows and dating a supermodel, with pictures of him on the back pages in the midst of public displays of affection. All that was the result of what he did on the mound, as he overpowered hitters from the beginning and started the All-Star Game. There was talk of him being a Cy Young Award candidate. However, he lost three of his last four decisions and had 12 no-decisions before sustaining a partial ligament tear in his elbow. Harvey complained of tightness in his right forearm prior to the break, of which Terry Collins professed no knowledge. Harvey was truly dominating with 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings, and walking just 31 with a microscopic 0.93 WHIP and 2.27 ERA.

LOOKING AT 2014

John Delcos Says:

Harvey eschewed immediate surgery to opt for rest and rehabilitation before starting a throwing program in the hope of being ready for spring training. The Mets hoped Harvey could pitch in the Arizona Fall League as a test, but that is becoming remote. Harvey will be re-examined in late October or early November, and if there’s not sufficient healing in the tear, surgery is still on the table. Harvey is taking a risk that if he doesn’t have surgery, he could further tear the ligament next summer and would miss the rest of next year and 2015 as well. If he has the surgery now he could conceivably be ready next September, which would be important if the Mets are competitive. The way things are progressing it appears Harvey will undergo surgery and the Mets will shop for mid-level veteran innings eater.

Joe D. Says:

The best case scenario for Matt Harvey in 2014, would be a return sometime around mid to late August. I can almost envision the excitement of his return – culminating in a dominating glimpse of the great season to come in 2015. The return of Harvey Day would electrify the fan base and be the perfect tonic going into the offseason and ushering in what we hope will be a run of success for the franchise beginning in 2015. Going into that offseason knowing that Harvey was back and healthy would eliminate the shadow that would be cast if he doesn’t return to make at least 2-3 starts. We need to see him back on the mound. It’s important for his teammates as well as the fans.

Oct 06

Mets Have Little To Offer In Trade Market

The New York Mets say they will spend on free agents this winter, in large part because they have little to offer up in the trade market.

Really, their only chance to immediately improve is to write checks.

What losing Matt Harvey for the 2014 season also does, is it greatly reduces the Mets’ inability to execute trades. In the wake of Harvey’s injury, general manager Sandy Alderson said he would be reluctant to deal Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard or any of the Mets’ other young pitching this winter to acquire the power hitter they are seeking.

Alderson said he has three starters heading into spring training – Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler – so none of them are available to deal. And, with Jenrry Mejia recovering from elbow surgery, there’s an even greater need to hold onto their pitching.

There’s nothing on the minor league level regarding position players that are major-league ready. If there’s nobody whom the Mets can bring up, that also means there’s nothing they can trade to a team that wants to add to the major league level.

On the major league level, the Mets have one star player capable of bringing something in return and that’s David Wright, assuming, of course, they could get anybody to bite on that contract.

There’s Daniel Murphy, but he won’t bring back anything in the way of an impact player or pitcher. Eric Young is a role player, while Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud are major league prospects, but if they are traded that merely creates more holes for the Mets.

What about Ike Davis and/or Lucas Duda? The Mets would like to get something for either, and don’t think for a second they haven’t been trying. Whenever Alderson is on the phone with another general manager, before he hangs up he’ll ask, “Any interest in Davis?  How about Duda?’’

When Alderson talks about the need to increase the Mets’ depth on the minor league level, he means more than just with their pitching prospects. To reach contending status, a team must have a strong farm system to not only bring up players, but also trade them to fill holes.

That’s something the Yankees, Red Sox and Braves have been doing for years. Alderson’s words aren’t ringing hollow. Improving depth in the farm system is essential if the Mets are to reach the next level. Buying players might help on a temporary basis, but it isn’t something they will be able to live on winter after winter.